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Current Student and Retired EY Partner Charles Swanson Shares Thoughts on "Going Back to School"

**The following article appeared in the September issue of the EY Alumni Partner Connector.

The retirement bucket list has become all too familiar. Give back. Spend time with family. Travel. Golf. But Charles Swanson, former Houston Office Managing Partner, chose a different path. He’s pursuing a master’s degree in wealth management at Columbia University in New York and will be graduating in May 2023.

Charles has always been interested in personal financial planning, and he observed that many people don’t understand how to properly calculate their investment returns — or, more pervasively, they just don’t have the time. “I want to create a service to do just that, monitoring investment results for professionals like doctors, attorneys and CPAs,” he says.

Charles began researching education programs, and he was intrigued by Columbia’s more global and comprehensive curriculum, with classes in subjects like Financial Psychology and Disruptive Trends. The program includes a wide range of students from the US and international locations such as Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan — all reflective of Columbia’s traditionally diverse and international reputation.

“I figured my age would either help me or immediately eliminate me. I’m two or three standard deviations from the normal applicant,” he says. “They must think that having a dinosaur in the classroom can help the other students!”

The 16-month online program, with two in-person residences, offers asynchronous instruction. Charles describes it as “a marathon with hurdles,” amounting to nearly 30 hours of work per week with semi-weekly deadlines. The rigorous program has him recalling many anecdotes from his 41 years at EY.

“The memories come back during group discussions,” Charles says, noting that both his professors and fellow students appreciate the perspective he brings, even as he learns from them. “At EY, I loved the variety of the work and the people. The people are the best part of EY, and I now appreciate the breadth of my experiences at EY even more.”

For those seeking new, meaningful experiences in retirement, Charles recommends leaving some bandwidth for the unknown. “I personally planned nothing for retirement,” he says. “In the four years I’ve been retired, I’ve learned that things come to you that you just wouldn’t expect. Take things as they come and decide the best path to take. That’s what makes life interesting.”